Fresh off of a heart breaking loss to the Boston Red Sox the Rays (20-20) the Rays will look to rebound as they continue their stretch of 12 games against AL East opponents at Oriole Park at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles enter the weekend after being swept in a two game series against the San Diego Padres and have a record of 23-17 and are in 2nd place 1.5 games behind the New York Yankees and 3 games in front of the Rays. This will be the third meeting between the clubs this season and second in Baltimore with the Orioles owning a 4-2 edge.
The pitching matchups will be Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 5.25 ERA) vs Jason Hammel (5-1, 4.93 ERA) on Friday night, Roberto Hernandez (2-4, 4.43 ERA) vs Jair Jurrjens (season debut) on Saturday at 4:05, and Matt Moore (7-0, 2.44 ERA) vs Chris Tillman (3-1, 3.40 ERA) on Sunday at 1:35.
The Orioles are dealing with a injuries to their starting staff as Miguel Gonzalez (blister) and Wei-Yin Chen (oblique). They join Brian Roberts (hamstring) and Wilson Betemit (knee). How the injuries impact the Orioles will depend a lot on how their offense performs over the next couple of weeks.
Entering Thursday's action the AL average slash line was .256/.322/.415 and a wOBA of .321 and a wRC+ of 99. Despite being 2nd in the league in runs per game (4.90) the Orioles only rank slightly higher than league average in most categories with a slash line of .263/.325/.431 a wOBA of .326 and a wRC+ of 101.
A quick look at how the Orioles bats have performed in the month of May:
The Orioles bullpen still hasn't lost a game when leading after 7 innings - a streak that now stands at 101 games but closer Jim Johnson's club record streak of 35 straight saves ended Tuesday evening against the Padres. Overall the bullpen still ranks in the upper echelon of the league with a league leading 2.84 ERA.
On the year Hammel has a 5-1 record with a 4.93 ERA/4.77 FIP. His strikeout rate has dropped from 8.62 K/9 in 2012 to 6.31 K/9 this season. At the same time he has seen his walk rate increase from 3.20 BB/9 in 2012 to 3.55 BB/9 in 2013.
After getting an additional 2 days of rest he will look to rebound from a poor effort last Friday in Minnesota versus the Twins where he worked a season low 4 innings allowing 6R/ER on 8 hits while striking out 6 and walking 2.
According to Brooksbaseball.net his pitch mix in 2013 has been fastball (28%/93.4 mph), sinker (35%/93.04 mph), slider (21%/84.81 mph), curveball (9%, 77.82 mph), and changeup (7%/87.02 mph).
Jurrjens will be making his season debut and it is difficult to know what to expect as he makes his first start of the year. After 4 successful season with the Braves (2008-2011) where he went 47-32 with a 3.34 ERA Jurrjens fell on hard times in 2011 posting a 3-4 record with an ERA of 6.89 and splitting time between Atlanta and Triple A Gwinnett. The Orioles signed him over the winter and he reported to Triple A Norfolk where he has been effective posting a 4-1 record with a 3.14 ERA and has 36 strikeouts and 15 walks in 51.2 innings of work.
In his career he has a fastball, sinker, slider, changeup that he mixes up and is a pitch to contact pitcher.
Tillman had a very successful 2012 season with the Orioles posting a 9-3 record with a 2.93 ERA but his numbers served as a red flag for many analyst who predicted a downfall 2013 season for him. His FIP in 2012 was 4.25 (xFIP of 4.34) , his BABIP against was .221, and he lost velocity due to an elbow ailment in September. The thought was that he had gotten by with smoke and mirrors and that he'd regress in 2013.
Thus far in 2013 Tillman has made 8 starts and has a 3-1 record with a 3.40 ERA. He is still outperforming his ERA estimators with a FIP of 4.43 (xFIP of 4.49) and BABIP against is .269.
He uses a fastball, curveball, changeup and will mix in the occasional cutter.